The Protection Cluster’s Civilian Impact Monitoring Project (CIMP), using open sources, recorded 2,087 civilian casualties in 2020 (749 people killed and 1,338 injured), a decrease from 3,224 civilian casualties in 2019 (1,104 deaths and 2,120 injuries), and from 4,934 in 2018 (2,049 deaths and 2,885 injuries). While civilian casualties fell by over a third between 2019 and 2020, the number of casualties increased in the last quarter of 2020 as clashes in Al Hudaydah and Taizz escalated.
According to CIMP, the highest number of civilian casualties in 2020 was in Al Hudaydah Governorate for the third consecutive year – 457 casualties were recorded, a decrease from 768 civilian casualties in 2019 and from 2,040 in 2018. Notably, no casualties from air strikes were recorded in Al Hudaydah in 2020, in contrast with 15 recorded in 2019 and 918 in 2018. The huge reduction in the number of casualties from air strikes over the last two years coincides with the ceasefire agreed under the Stockholm Agreement in December 2018. A similar number of civilian casualties, 454, were recorded in Taizz Governorate in 2020, where figures fell slightly from 2019, but increased between 2018 and 2019. The third highest number of casualties was recorded in Sa’ada Governorate, where casualties fell from 326 in 2019 to 197 in 2020 and the number of casualties from shelling fell by 50 per cent, from 214 in 2019 to 107 in 2020. Civilian casualties from air strikes in Sa’ada dropped dramatically from 785 in 2018 to 53 in 2019 and 46 in 2020. Other governorates where there were large decreases in the number of civilian casualties in 2020 include Ad Dhale’e – where the frontline remained largely the same – and in Aminat Al Asmah and Hajjah, where the decrease again reflects a reduction in the number of deaths and injuries from air strikes.
Another likely reason for the overall decrease in the number of civilian casualties in 2020 is that new frontlines opened up in less populated regions, for example in remote districts in Al Jawf and Marib governorates. Even so, Marib and Al Jawf, were two governorates where the number of casualties increased, from 66 to 180 between 2019 and 2020 in Al Jawf and from 32 to 119 in Marib. Civilian casualty numbers also increased in some governorates in the south, reflecting ongoing clashes between forces of the Government of Yemen and southern separatists.
CIMP indicates that shelling caused the highest number of civilian casualties in 2020, though overall numbers have decreased over the past two years.
At the end of March 2020, the UN Secretary- General called for a global ceasefire to allow humanitarians to reach people most vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19 and made a separate appeal to the parties to the conflict in Yemen. On 9 April the Saudiled Coalition called a unilateral two-week ceasefire which it later extended until the end of Ramadan in May. In May, the number of civilian casualties recorded by CIMP fell to 155, and to 143 in June, but were higher in the last six months of the year. Civilian casualties spiked at 228 in October, following an increase in clashes in Al Hudaydah and Taizz from late September, and there were a series of mass casualty events in the two governorates in the last three months of the year, and one in Aden on 30 December when Aden airport was attacked as the new cabinet were arriving in Yemen.
In 2020, CIMP recorded 994 incidents where armed violence hit houses in 2020, down from 1,268 in 2019, and 249 incidents where farms were hit, a slight drop from 260 in 2019. There was an increase in the number of incidents affecting health facilities, from 14 to 20, while the number of incidents affecting education facilities halved, from 37 to 18. Twice as many incidents were recorded where telecommunications infrastructure was damaged during the year, up from 10 to 20.
Access challenges in Yemen make it difficult to verify civilian casualties and other breaches of international humanitarian law. Nevertheless, OHCHR verified 961 civilian casualties including 329 deaths and 632 injuries in 2020. Victims included 157 men, 47 women, 83 boys and 42 girls killed and 280 men, 97 women and 96 girls injured. OHCHR, like CIMP, found that the highest number of casualties were caused by shelling (123 deaths and 366 injuries). OHCHR verified casualties also show a significant downward trend over the last two years, from 2,712 in 2018, to 1,942 civilian casualties in 2019, and 961 in 2020. OHCHR also verified 12 attacks on schools, 14 attacks on hospitals, 4 attacks on mosques and an attack on a prison.
HC a.i. issues two further statements calling for a halt to indiscriminate attacks in Al Hudaydah
In January, the Humanitarian Coordinator a.i. issued two more statements as clashes and indiscriminate attacks continued to kill and injure civilians in residential areas of Al Hudaydah. Following reports that three civilians were killed and at least four injured in an attack near a wedding hall in the Al Hawak District in Al Hudaydah on 1 January, the Humanitarian a.i., Mr. Ally-Raza Qureshi, called on the parties to the conflict “to stop these indiscriminate attacks, which are causing so many casualties among civilians in clear violation of international humanitarian law.” After an escalation of clashes in southern areas of Al Hudaydah in mid- January, on 28 January the Humanitarian Coordinator a.i., Mr. Auke Lootsma, warned that the “ conflict continues to exert misery on millions of lives,” adding “… an immediate end to hostilities is urgently needed to allow humanitarians to conduct needs assessments and provide crucial medical support to wounded civilians and material support to those who have been displaced and lost their livelihoods.”